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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 18, 2012 8:17 PM. The previous post in this blog was Major regime change in post-streetcar Lake Oswego. The next post in this blog is Bojack.org StormCenter 9000.2 goes back on standby. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Next Portland boondoggle: new performing arts center?

Portland's "unique" Metro government is tipping its hand here: Suddenly it wants your opinion of the area's performing arts venues. Since they can't pull off a publicly financed convention center hotel, the Metro folks seemingly have to throw the construction boys some other make-work project. It sounds as though we taxpayers are about to buy a new theater or two that we hardly need. It would make the Reedies happy. And funny thing, this is right when Charlie Hales is selling himself as an arts enthusiast. We smell a backroom deal that's already been cut.

Comments (22)

One venue was left out - City Hall.

....and that is the Theater of The Absurd!

Other : Portland Pothole art. It needs no budget yet continues to be popular almost everywhere.

I think Fantasy Video would be a great answer for the write in spot for a number of reasons.

As reported by in-house media last May, PCPA is looking a $20-40m renovation of the Schnitz. I haven't done any follow-up reporting on the issue, but the timing would seem to make sense given that they said last May they were about a year off from a capital campaign.

And don't kiss off the convention center hotel just yet.

Ah yes - had just about forgotten the visual connection and the need to build something iconic there.

Maybe they should hold off a bit, though, so we can perhaps pay down the $125 million bond measure that voters passed in 2008. The low-VOC paint's barely dry in the new zoo veterinary facilities and construction's yet to begin on the new elephant facilities. Give the vet staff time to settle in, eh?

And somehow, one suspects that if they ever get around to building an elephant place up there in Sandy, more cash is going to be needed to staff it and run it (to say nothing of heat, light, water, veterinary logistics...). That has the scent of another bond measure to it, already.

And as far as PCPA goes - can't Tom get Randy to cut Metro a deal on a few of those Leonard Loos?

I have a better idea. Let's dig a big pit, dump big piles of borrowed cash in it and set it on fire. It will be just as useful, and we can make it like Burning Man. It will attract the creative class in droves! We can even put a bird on it someplace.

Maybe, like the private sector, they're actually interested in what their customers think? Naw, government is too stupid to want to sell more tickets even though it makes them more money.

Nick, a publicly financed hotel is dead, and a privately financed hotel will never happen. Portland stinks as a convention town, if only for the lousy airline service, and even if it didn't, there's too much competition.

But it's interesting that you confirm that the "survey" is being conducted to support plans that have already been drawn up.

If the rich folks want a better concert hall, maybe they should pungle up some tax-deductible contributions and get it done.

Coming Soon: Martial Law Arts.

I was surprised to find out that Metro owns those theaters.

Why does the government need to own/run/subsidize theater? Are the arts patrons to cheap to pay their own way?

Thanks
JK

Jim,

Like the zoo, which was a City operation, the Schnitz, the Keller, and other venues were City. Oxbow Park, Blue Lake, and I believe MERC were Multnomah County. All were dumped into Metro due (so it was claimed) to their "regional significance".

It's also why Metro now runs the pioneer cemeteries, more or less - when they aren't digging up body parts and dumping them into the fill site across from Blue Lake.

Basically, the smaller governments said, "Here, you guys take 'em. We'll help out where we can." Prior to around 1970, Metro didn't exist. It was the state agency known as CRAG, and was subsequently morphed into the Metropolitan Service District, or MSD. One of its first "gifts" was the troubled Portland Zoological Gardens, which had always been a CoPo park. CoPo gave it to a "zoological Society", which ran it for about two years and couldn't handle it either. Enter MSD and its newly-minted "leader", Rick Goof-off-stafson, who eventually went on to "manage" Portland Streetcar.

I have kind of a bit of difficulty with timelines, there, but it couldn't have been much later than '74 when MSD took it over. I believe that was their first acquisition, though the others followed with almost predictable succession. They were "gifted" all of the venues that they now run, with the exception of the Convention Center - that was all their baby, and they showed us how things get done.

When the OCC failed, MSD (by now, Metro) decided that it just needed to be bigger, so they floated a measure - which the voters rejected. So, they found ways to build the expansion anyway; setting the tone for how everything else gets done. Don't want light rail expansion, or streetcar expansion? Tough. Nobody cares what you think, and they certainly don't care whether or not you want to pay. You will.

So, why has Metro been pushing so hard for a Convention Center Hotel? It turns out that flying in the face of voters didn't go as planned: the OCC expansion utterly failed to draw the big venues they'd promised. They were certain that doubling the size of OCC would do it; now, they're certain that a hotel will.

Track record: http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2012/01/17/losses-mount-for-oregon-zoo.html
The Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, Portland Centers for the Performing Arts and Portland Expo Center collectively lost $18.6 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, slightly less than the $19.1 million they generated in tax revenue.

Total take among all four venues: about $500,000 - or about enough to cover the salaries (not the benefits) for four Metro managers.

Oh - and legally, there's nothing to stop them from taking over Tri-Met. For now, it's just more convenient to let Tri-Met take the heat.

Jack - as an aside - don't forget to mention Hawaiian air just cut it's Portland - Maui direct flights.

You know, for conventions' sake.

For the second time in a week, I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Jim Karlock. Why are we trying to duplicate our own version of the Sydney Opera House complex here in Portlaand?

Lately, I've enjoyed some fairly quality productions of smaller theatre, dance, and musical companies playing in much smaller, non-publicly owned venues. There are an amazing number of such places around the core area of Portland, seating perhaps 100-400 persons each, and if their total capacity is added up, they far exceed that for the pcpa. And their online ticket system isn't owned by a gajillionaire that finds ways to charge you fees to print your own ticket and bring it in on your own!

Jack, your comment about how badly Portland stinks as a convention town hit a sore spot. I still have a lot of friends who write and edit science fiction, so they keep telling me about one Cat Piss Man or another who makes noises about making a bid for the World Science Fiction Convention in Portland. (Or, even better, Seaside, and the dweeb pitching this didn't care that attendees would have to drive 75 miles from PDX to get there because "this would be COOL.") When I told one about how Sam was pushing a convention hotel that would probably be filled with nothing but events like this, she responded that this wasn't fair, because Portland had hosted a big open-source programming event that was "huge". She got rather upset with me when I pointed out that the vast majority of programming types, particularly the open-source crowd, don't exactly bring in huge amounts of money to any city they visit: as the joke about the old Comdex shows in Las Vegas went, they come in with one shirt and one $20 bill, and they don't change either for the whole week.

Like Jack, I received the Metro survey on entertainment venues.

The whole thing is quite a piece.

The pre set responses blocks are all variations of "...spend additional tax dollars on "X"..." and "...publicaly fund more 'X"...". No check the box response for either None of the above" nor for "Stop spending Tax dollars on this stuff".

I filled in several text box responses with variations on the two versions of "stop the spending", byt no attention will be paid to those responses, IMHO.

These Metro surveys are designed to gin up phoney support for already determined Metro goals, and do not at all encourage serious thought, much less discussion, about what those goals and spending priorities should be.

I'll still keep participating in them, just to annoy the surveyors.

Metro seems to model itself after the Council of People's Commissars.

Nonny Mouse,
It may be that those who sit at the desks checking those survey results are told to put those surveys aside that are out of "sync" with the questions and goals.
That stack could hit the ceiling if more people participated.
But as it is, if they can get 20 surveys in support, that is the response of the community!

So, why has Metro been pushing so hard for a Convention Center Hotel? It turns out that flying in the face of voters didn't go as planned: the OCC expansion utterly failed to draw the big venues they'd promised. They were certain that doubling the size of OCC would do it; now, they're certain that a hotel will.

I recall the OCC operating at about 1/2 capacity before Metro expanded it. Now it operates at about 1/4 capacity.

I always find it mildly eyrie how massive that place is the few times I go to a convention. Like a giant, empty airport.

Have these pet projects, any of them ever been done on real need?

The scene in Portland is eyrie.
Public dollars have been swept up.
What next?


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